Friday, October 8, 2010
French Onion Soup
I love french onions soup. Although, many restaurants have failed to impress with with their culinary preparation of what seems to be quite an easy dish to master. I have found amazing french onion soup at the Bistrot Zinc in Chicago, Zucco Le French Diner in New York City, and surprisingly Max and Erma's right here in Pittsburgh. No, I did not pursue a culinary journey to find the country's best french onion soup. I merely was the fortunate one to stumble across some of the best in my travels.
So, i decided, why not. Let's give it a whirl. But which recipe to try. I checked out Julia Childs recipe. Seemed pretty easy. Than I saw Emeril Lagasse. He uses Gruyere cheese. One of my favorites! So, Emeril's it is. I must say, his recipe did not disappoint. From the ease of the recipe, to the flavor, and lastly the much needed presentation. Yes, this was a winner. Yummo!
French onion soup is an onion and beef broth or a beef stock based soup traditionally served with croutons and cheese as toppings. Although ancient in origin, this dish underwent a resurgence of popularity in the 1960s in the United States due to an increased popularity for French cooking. Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were, throughout history, seen as food for poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow. The modern version of this soup originates in France in the 18th century, made from beef broth, and caramelized onions. It is often finished by being placed under a broiler in a ramekin traditionally with croutons and gruyère melted on top. The crouton on top is reminiscent of ancient soups (see History of Soup).
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup cognac
8 cups beef stock or broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied into a bundle with kitchen string
1/2 loaf French bread, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 pound Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
1/2 cup Port wine (optional)
Finely chopped parsley, garnish
In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the cognac. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the alcohol has evaporated. Be careful as the cognac may ignite.
Add the beef stock and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the soup for 45 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, toast the bread slices until light golden brown. Remove from the oven.
Preheat the broiler.
When the soup is ready, divide 1/2 of the toasted bread slices between 6 individual ovenproof serving bowls or crocks and top with 1/2 of the grated cheese. Ladle some of the soup among the bowls and top with the remaining toasts. Ladle the remaining soup among the bowls and top with the remaining cheese. Place the bowls on a baking sheet and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted, golden brown and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Garnish the top with chopped parsley and serve hot.